Using Social Media and Targeted Snowball Sampling to Survey a Hard-to-reach Population: A Case Study

Gary Dusek, Yuilya Yurova, Cynthia P. Ruppel
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 10  •  2015  •  pp. 279-299
Response rates to the academic surveys used in quantitative research are decreasing and have been for several decades among both individuals and organizations. Given this trend, providing doctoral students an opportunity to complete their dissertations in a timely and cost effective manner may necessitate identifying more innovative and relevant ways to collect data while maintaining appropriate research standards and rigor. The case of a research study is presented which describes the data collection process used to survey a hard-to-reach population. It details the use of social media, in this case LinkedIn, to facilitate the distribution of the web-based survey. A roadmap to illustrate how this data collection process unfolded is presented, as well as several “lessons learned” during this journey. An explanation of the considerations that impacted the sampling design is provided. The goal of this case study is to provide researchers, including doctoral students, with realistic expectations and an awareness of the benefits and risks associated with the use of this method of data collection.
sampling hard-to-reach populations, snowball sampling, sampling from social media, response rate, LinkedIn
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